Cannabis linked to lower insulin levels in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes

Jack Woodfield
Thu, 25 Jul 2019
Cannabis linked to lower insulin levels in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes
Obese adults at risk of type 2 diabetes who used cannabis had significantly lower fasting insulin levels compared to those who didn't use the drug, research suggests.

Medical cannabis was approved for use by the UK government last year, but the Home Office insisted that possession of cannabis, which is a class B drug, would still be illegal.

Cannabinoid substances have previously been linked with improved blood glucose control as well as a variety of other health benefits, and this new study indicates its potential for people with insulin resistance, which can precede type 2 diabetes.

The US study found that smoking cannabis four times a month was associated with lower fasting insulin levels in obese adults. Researchers also discovered that adults who had previously been frequent cannabis users had lower levels of fasting insulin.

Fasting insulin levels are used as a way of assessing insulin sensitivity, and a high fasting insulin level can indicate insulin resistance.

A total of 129,509 people with type 2 diabetes aged between 18 and 59 took part in the study. Of those, 32.7% were classed as overweight and 32.6% were obese.

The researchers were able to show that the median fasting insulin was higher in adults who never use cannabis compared with those who used the drug.

The use of cannabis did not impact insulin levels among those who were not obese or overweight, except in adults who previously used the drug.

Adults who previously used cannabis less than four times a month, but who had stopped between one and 10 years ago, had 37% lower fasting insulin than those who never used cannabis.

While cannabis shows certain health benefits, there are possible health risks that need to be considered too. Previous studies have indicated that smoking cannabis can increase the risk of certain cancers, notably lung cancer.

Research to date currently shows cannabidiol (CBD), a substance derived from cannabis, to have similar benefits as cannabis and with a good safety profile. Unlike cannabis, CBD is legal within the UK.

If you are considering taking supplements, speak to your doctor first as supplements such as CBD, can interact with certain diabetes medications.

The findings have been published online in Journal of Diabetes.
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